November 28, 2010

Reader Question: Who Should Be on the Christmas Card List?

Melissa writes:
What is the standard for sending Christmas cards? I send them to out-of-town friends and family, but I don't send them to people I see often (say on a weekly or even monthly basis). Is this rude? Should I send them to everyone? Of course, if an in-town friend or family member send a card (this happens VERY rarely), I send one back, but I don't have them pegged in my original Christmas card list. Thoughts?

My GUESS is that there is no standard at all: i.e., that every person you ask will have a different answer, ranging from "I don't even send one to my mother" all the way to "I also send one to each kid at our bus stop, and to the UPS guy, and to the grocery store manager." And I'll bet there are tons of different things like "I send to aunts/uncles but not to my cousins" and "I send to friends but not co-workers."

It probably depends a lot on a person's reasons for sending cards: a card can be a wish for a happy holiday, or a way to keep in touch, or way to meet an obligation, or a vehicle to transport new family photos, or all kinds of things. And it probably also depends on a person's feelings about cards: some people think of it as a holiday chore, and some people love it and look for excuses to add to the list. And it probably depends a lot on The Way Things Are Done in a person's circle of acquaintances.

The GOAL, I think, is for both people in each relationship to be pleased with whether they exchange cards or not. I have some people I see often that I DO send cards to, and some I don't. I definitely don't think there's anything rude about NOT sending a card to someone.


But now I am VERY INTERESTED to hear how everyone else handles holiday card lists: who's on it, who's not, and do you have categories of people you send to or don't send to?

38 comments:

Cherish said...

I usually include some local family/friends in my list but I make sure to drop those off and maybe visit while Im there. These are usually the people whom I would be including a recent picture of the kids for though, so no "lady down the street that we sometimes see at the park..."

For all the people out of town I just ask myself if those people would actually care to get a card from me. There's one aunt that I send to and one that I dont. Some of the cards include pictures and some are just a simple "Merry Christmas, Love Cherish and the Boys" I take my cues from the people on my list themselves. If they've ever sent you a card or thanked you for one, then go ahead.

Bitts said...

I send cards to my closest friends, who I see daily or weekly, because I like having the photographic record of them and their children. Plus, my kids (2 and 3) love to see pictures of their friends come in the mail!

I also send cards to distant relatives ... but not to local acquaintences. I do send them to some people who I'm not in touch with otherwise, because I want the door to stay open for future reunion.

Not sending cards to local acquaintences is a watershed for me -- it's my way of "officially" ending my obligation to those people, which is better than saying, "We're not friends any more" to someone's face. They can interpret the lack of a card however they want to. Passive-aggressive much? Hmmm ...

FWIW, I never keep track of who sends and who doesn't from year to year. I *try* to send a card in response if I receive an "outlier" but I probably don't keep as close tabs on that as I should ...

Caitlin said...

Ooooohh. My husband and I are sending Christmas cards for the first time this year (I sent cards sometimes when I was single, but this will be my first time buying cards with PICTURES and sending them as a married couple and maybe I am a little more excited about this than is reasonable.).

I am not going into this with any set of rules about who to send to - more going on what feels right. Out of town friends and family for sure. But not necessarily everyone on our wedding guest list. I am so interested to see what people do!

What I think I am most excited about is that no one has seen any of the pictures on the cards yet. I have found that in the last few years, I've been very disappointed to get cards with pictures that have already been plastered all over facebook for months. I...kind of feel like there's a little bit of money wasted there. So I intentionally started setting aside a stock of Good Photos of Us over the past few months for prime card selection and they will make their debut on the Christmakkuh card!

Well, as I said, probably more excited about this than is reasonable. And I look forward to reading the comments here to see what people do.

Anna said...

I just say NO to Christmas cards entirely. There are two kinds of people you can send them to: people you see or talk to otherwise, and people you only have contract with through the Christmas card exchange. So what's the point? The people you see or talk to otherwise, you can just see or talk to whenever you want. And if you wanted to have contact with the other ones, you WOULD, so I just save myself the trouble. AWESOME. I have been not doing cards for years and have not had a single regret, awkward moment or complaint/comment.

Swistle said...

Anna- For me, there are several points: (1) it's a pleasant social custom that's fun to participate in; (2) I like having once-a-year updates from some people I wouldn't otherwise get updates from; (3) it's fun and holiday-spirity to get cards in the mail.

Rayne of Terror said...

I love sending Christmas cards. I send about 100 each year. If I have your address, you are probably getting a card. I usually handwrite a short note about our year and include a picture of the boys. All relatives, many undergrad and law school friends, former co-workers, my husband's manager, our neigbor, and anyone we receive a card from gets one in return. I update my Christmas card excel spreadsheet throughout the year when I get a new address.

Leeann said...

I love Christmas cards- Love, love, love them. Ever since I was a little child, I have loved looking at the pictures each year. Now that I am an adult (and I swear I am not a hoarder), I keep each year's pictures from people's cards in a gallon sized ziplock, labeled with that year. Each Christmas I go through the photos and marvel at how the kids have grown and changed. It's a very sentimental time for me and a time that I reflect on the people I care about and love.

So, who do I send to? Family and relatives, and then friends and loved ones both near and far. I do take people off the list periodically and send a card to folks who send me one unexpectedly. My husband sends some to select work associates as well.

We also do a Christmas letter each year, which reminds me to ask you, Swistle- Can I include, on a separate piece of paper, your holiday card checklist? I think it is hilarious! I will, of course, give you complete and full credit along with a link to your blog.

Please let me know!

Joanne said...

Since I've had kids I started sending cards. I sometimes include a letter, which cracks me up because I NEVER thought I would do that. I live far away from most of my family, so I send to them, to my husband's family and to our friends. I ordered 150 this year, because last year I did 125 and I cut it very close. I send to anyone we get a card from, too, which can be pretty random. Sometimes I mess up and have someone off my list and then get a card, so I quickly put them on the list and send the card. After a few years of NOT receiving a card from someone, I sometimes take them off the list, just to keep it even. I don't keep a file or anything of addresses, which makes it even screwier/more exciting.

Amanda said...

This topic intrigues me. I have a large extended family (both of my parents had nine children in their families, and there are six in mine), but even with sending cards to all aunts/uncles/closer cousins, and friends (as well as immediate family members, I figure that they care as much or more about receiving a card from us as any of the others), I send out less than fifty Christmas cards. Who exactly makes the cut to receive a card in those households that send out large quantities of cards?

Swistle said...

Leeann- Ha ha yes, if you want to!

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I send out 60 or so cards each year. After we got married, I felt like I needed to send a card to every single person we invited to the wedding... But man, that's a LOT of cards. I mainly send them to close friends who live out of town, extended family, and a few other family friends. My husband hates the whole card process, by the way... He thinks it's expensive and silly and always tries to limit the number of cards I buy. He just doesn't have the same association of holiday cheer that holiday cards bring to me.

Misty said...

I love to send Christmas cards. Our family is so far flung that this may be one of the few times they hear from us at all (and vice versa lest I sound like evil, family hating hag.)

Anyway, I love to send Christmas cards. Maybe I will do a letter this year? I feel like with the cost of the picture and the cost of the card and the freaking cost of POSTAGE, this thing here in the envelope? It is a bona fide Christmas PRESENT. So, that rationale makes me feel extra-good in the holiday season.

Which doesn't answer the question. I send to mostly family (and I mean all the way to the great-auntie on my husband's side that I have never even met. I like that she has pictures of my kids on her fridge. That has to make me the best great-niece-in-law-ever, right?) some friends, but not like the neighbors. Although I have been known to bring them baked goods or fruit baskets.

jen(melty) said...

I feel like people think I'm such a stingy witch. I don't mind paying for the cards and I rather enjoy the picture taking and card designing. But the postage about kills me.

I only send it to people who would enjoy a photo of my kids. I don't send to certain friends. I lie about sending them to certain OTHER friends. And if someone doesn't send me a card fo several years I drop them from the list.

I'm pretty sure this makes me scroogey but to me the reciprocation is part of the fun and if you don't want to participate then I'm gonna save my $2.45 tyvm :)

jen(melty) said...

Oh, and I'm curious.. how people feel about hand-delivering. There are certain people in our families that I'm thinking of just giving the card to when I see them. That might cut the postage in half. Is that tacky? heh.

Bevo said...

I am an old person and have been sending Christmas card photos including the typed yearly letter to people with whom I want to stay in touch - most of whom are out of town. This yearly ritual has kept us successfully in touch with people we love. This year alone, we had fabulous reunions with 2 families we had not seen in nearly 30 years who live on opposite sides of the country and world. It was as if we had never been apart. Unbelievably wonderful. Would not have happened without the Christmas cards.

Maureen said...

I live thousands of miles away from the rest of my family, so I send Christmas cards to all of them. Then I send a few to friends here in town, so usually I send about 50 all together. I did join a Christmas card exchange this season, so I guess I will be sending about 90 this year.

I love Christmas cards, I enjoy picking out my cards, and I love to get them.

Got a little teary eyed reading Bevo's comment about having reunions with friends they haven't seen in years. So very sweet!

Kathy said...

I send Christmas cards to family members mostly and friends who are "like family." I send them to the local folks and the far away folks. I always include pictures and a letter i I'm feeling ambitious.

If I haven't received a Christmas card from someone for two years, I drop them from the list--my grandparents are excused from the possibility of being dropped from the list because it's getting difficult for them to do so many cards (one grandparent had a stroke and another has Parkinson's, etc.).

Anonymous said...

bah humbug- i don't enjoy sending cards at all! too much time, money, pressure and waste of resources. i am the first to admit that i am on the scroogy side, and i'll tell you this (and only because you said you were VERY INTERESTED): i throw away the cards i DO recive pretty quickly. i KNOW, scroogy, right? i mean, we put them on the mantle for a while, and since we "celebrate" christmas in only the most secular way, we don't really do it up that much in terms of the decorating (a smallish tree, stockings, that's it). so after a week or two of holiday decorations the great majority of the cards get dumped with the wrapping paper and other trash. if it is a picture of my nephews or kids we really know well i might move a card or two to the fridge door but otherwise....trash. i am going to post as anon....scared of the backlash :)
but even you chritmas card LOVERS, you must throw some out eventually? :)

-R- said...

We send cards to family, including aunts and uncles but not cousins. My husband has 26 sets of aunts and uncles and over 100 cousins, and that is just too many cards for me!

I send cards to my husband's friends who also send cards to us. I send cards to most of my friends, I think, but not coworkers unless the coworker sends me one first.

Overall, it's about 60 cards. I love receiving cards too.

Lucy said...

Well, this will sound bad I guess but here is what I do:
I send Christmas cards to family every year for sure. Even those family that I never ever hear from or receive a card from...they still get a card.
Friends I give cards too vary every year though. I find that different "friends" drift in and out of my life as the years go by, so I find that those people that get cards change every year. Of course there are about 5 or less friends that haven't changed, but local friends...sometimes I send them one, and sometimes I don't...maybe that's bad.
hmm.

Joanne said...

I send out a large amount, but I do have a big family, and so does my husband. I'm pretty close with my first cousins, for example, and there's about 15 of each of them on each side so - that's 30 right there! I have a lot of SAHM friends from this board that I'm on and we all send to each other. I think this might be because we spend a LOT of time bitching about our kids so it's a nice time to reflect on how cute they can be, too. This could just be me, but I sometimes dress my kids cutely so that there is something solid to like about them, every day. Also, although I enjoy getting cards I throw them away within maybe ... one month? Sometimes I cut out the picture if it's really cute and hang it on the inside of my cabinet doors so it cheers us all mid-year. My kids love to look at pictures of their friends and far-away family.

pippi said...

i don't do cards. my husband sends them to his family members because it's important to them. my family has never done christmas cards. apparently my mom delegated that task to my dad when i was born and we've been card free for 30 years.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- Of course I throw them out! I put them up on the wall with poster putty and enjoy them until after Christmas, when I throw them away. I keep some of the photos on my fridge, and I've kept a few cards that I think might look pretty framed if I ever decorate more for Christmas. If you don't enjoy exchanging cards, I don't see a reason in the world you should do it--or call yourself names for not doing it.

Farrell said...

family and friends which includes old neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins, childhood friends, adult friends, HS friends, college friends, my own parents, grandparents....
I send to co-workers if I have enough to give a card to all (usually do a photo card); if I don't, then I skip it. However, I'm not sure if that is the "right" thing to do as some years, depending on who I order from, I will have more left over than others. So it probably makes me look bad to send to all co-workers one year and not anyone the next. On the other hand, my company downsizes every year so around Xmas time, there are less and less to send to. Wish I were making that up.

elckd said...

When I got married I started by sending cards to everyone on the guest list. We have added substantially to that list over the years with new friends, neighbors, expanded families, co-workers, etc. You only get removed if you pass away, or if your card comes back as "undeliverable" 2 years in a row. It actually makes me feel good in some strange way to send them to people who have never reciprocated. (And I'll know for sure if you have because I save every one I receive, in zip-loc bags seperated & labeled by year.)

I dreaded sending them until I started printing up picture cards (first of our house, the dog, etc., and now of the kids). I just print the address labels, stick in the picture & slap on a stamp, I can get them all stuffed & out in an hour or so with no writing, and I swear they cost about 1/2 what I was spending before on fancy cards. Just about every card I receive in return (at least from people with kids) is a picture-card as well, which is another great reason I just can't throw them away! It's a lot of fun to compare this years to last & see how everyone has changed.

Kira said...

I am a horrible human being and I don't send cards to anyone. At all.
Every year I feel a brief, intense pang of guilt about it, and vow to do better next year. So far it hasn't taken.

Tara said...

I send to all of my family and close friends, regardless of location, including out-of-town great aunts and uncles who I never see. My list usually ends up topping 50 or so. I will remove people we haven't heard from in one-two years, depending upon if it's friend or family. No return card/acknowledgement means no card for you next time!

Oh! And! I learned the hard way 2 years ago to include in cards to the elderly family members a print out of the Christmas letter, even if my original plan is just to post it online. We always have a picture to include. One of my great aunts wrote to me to thank me for the picture but told me she didn't have a website, so she couldn't read our letter. :)

Elsha said...

I only send to 30 (ish) people, mostly family. All siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents get a card. Other than that, a few cousins we're close to and a few out of town friends.

We've only been doing cards for a few years, I'm sure the list will get longer as time goes on.

Christina said...

We do annual photos in our card that my boyfriend Photoshops into oblivion including our pets. This will be the 5th Christmas and now they're somewhat of a coveted excitement for everybody. We hear from people all the time that they have them framed, on their fridge, or on a bulletin board/in their cubicle. It's fun to visit ppl's houses and SEE our photo on their fridge. It's also brought us closer to a lot of people who used to be kind of "meh. Merry Christmas." to now "WOW we love your cards - how was your year!?"

But to answer the question - I send cards to immediate family, and aunts/uncles and grandparents. If cousins are out on their own, I send to them too. Also, close family friends. I don't send to acquaintances or those ppl you feel obligated to, which otherwise aren't your friends. Basically - if I'd call you to say Merry Christmas then you get a card from me to say the same. Whether or not they are in/out of town doesn't matter to me. Mail is mail and it's fun to receive either way! :)

Christina said...

Oh and I forgot to add that I find exceptional joy in deliberately sending cards to those that Bah Humbug and Scrooge their way through Christmas, muttering about how they HATE cards (mostly the bf's family).

I've found, oddly, those are the ones who LOVE our photos the most. I suspect b/c we go out of our way to make them fun and personal - not just a cookie cutter version of Xmas cards w/ no personality.

Alice said...

i pretty much send cards ONLY to friends (not close w/extended fam) and most of them are people i see regularly / could hand deliver to if i really wanted.... but i just LOVE getting Real Mail and assume other people do too! :)

Maggie said...

I also love sending and receiving Christmas cards. Since we don't have large immediate families, it's not onerous to send cards to all of the immediate family members. I send cards to all of our close friends near and far. My husband has a rather large extended family including second cousins and the like that I don't send cards to because most of them I haven't seen since our wedding 11 years ago and really wouldn't know if I accidentally ran over in the street.

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

I send them to everyone I'm thinking of during the holidays, regardless of how often I see them.

Kristin H said...

I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. I think I'll do a letter this year too. It always makes me happy to see our family picture up on people's fridges all year. We just go through our address books and send them to everyone we like, whether we see them often or not. Sometimes we have to cut a few because we run out of cards. But we don't really have any rhyme or reason to it.

Leah said...

We send them to about 100 ppl per year. I hate it because I have 3 kids 4 and under and there is just no easy way to assembly line that stuff in the limited time I have. Also, my husband has a GIANT family with unwavering card expectations and it is exhausting. That said, I like cards. I like getting them, I like seeing people, I throw them out after xmas so no clutter, I like sending them to people. It is just too much for me right now.

Christy said...

I've alredy gotten the first cards this year and I JUST got your poster I ordered from Zazzle to hang all the cards around on the wall. I'm so excited.

The very first card I got had so much glitter it was falling out of the envelope in the mailbox. I thought, "Minus 2!"

On topic, I send them to close family and friends that we don't see often.

Shawna said...

I send Christmas cards with pics of the kids to the elderly members of my husband's family (sadly, this list is getting gradually shorter), some local friends, some blog friends, and sometimes-but-it's-rare to my uncle in England, who's sent me cards maybe 3 times in my life.

Oh and my sister in-law who is a card maniac and has outright defied my request to NOT be sent cards many times.

leafprobably said...

I don't send Christmas cards at all, I send emails to people to say merry christmas, and give a bit of an update as to what I've been up to :)

I could say it's because I like the individual approach of writing a letter, but mostly it's because I hate the post office.